When Beavis and Butt-Head Do America hit the big screen in 1996, it became an instant box-office smash and further cemented the dim-witted teenage characters as ‘90s pop-culture icons. Not bad, considering creator Mike Judge had been reluctant to make the film.
The hype surrounding a Beavis and Butt-Head movie started almost immediately after the Beavis and Butt-Head series hit MTV. “This is going to be huge,” entertainment mogul David Geffen declared to MTV Networks Chairman Tom Freston shortly after the first episode aired in 1993. “Let’s make an album and a movie of this.”
True to his word, Geffen quickly became involved in discussions for a Beavis and Butt-Head film. The first task at hand was convincing Judge that a movie would make sense.
“Mike was resistant,” Freston matter-of-factly told the Los Angeles Times. A major part of Judge’s trepidation stemmed from how the project was being approached. Namely, studio executives wanted to make Beavis and Butt-Head a live-action film.
“The phones were ringing off the hook from major studios wanting to make it into a movie,” Judge recalled in a 1996 interview. “And everyone except for one wanted to make it live-action. These were mostly people who hadn’t seen the show, they were thinking, ‘Bill and Ted, Wayne and Garth, here we got another one.’”
Some major names were reportedly considered for the live-action movie, including Saturday Night Live stars David Spade and Adam Sandler as the titular characters. Still, Judge was insistent that it had to be animated.
“I don’t see how live-action could ever work unless it’s something completely different from the show,” the series creator explained, likening his characters to another set of timeless cartoons. “And I don’t think you could do Charlie Brown live-action. It wouldn’t be any good.”
Watch the Trailer for ‘Beavis and Butt-Head Do America’
The producers eventually agreed with Judge’s vision and green-lit the animated film. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America would see the teenage characters traipsing across the country, unknowingly pawns in a murder-for-hire-turned-domestic-terrorism plot. Along the way, fans of the TV show got plenty of the laughs they’d hoped for – including Beavis’ alter ego Cornholio, an assortment of erection jokes and an appearance by Tom Anderson, the easily agitated retiree who would inspire one of Judge’s other famous characters, Hank Hill.
Released on Dec. 20, 1996, Beavis and Butt-Head Do America was No. 1 on its opening weekend and eventually took in more than $63 million at the U.S. box office. The film even received rave reviews from critics. Roger Ebert praised it as “radical and uncompromising,” while The New Yorker proclaimed the film’s “idiocy is irresistible.”
Naturally, the movie’s success spawned immediate talks of a sequel. Though Judge toyed with ideas – including plots focusing on Beavis and Butt-Head as children or old men – a second film did not materialize until more than 25 years later. In January 2022, Judge announced that the cartoon duo would return for a new movie. Its title, Beavis and Butt-Head Do the Universe, was revealed a month later.